First VB gets the axe. What's next COBOL?

Summary:Perhaps the moral of this story is that you can't teach a dog new tricks. Particularly these old dogs, who, like my old dog, bite back if you don't handle them just right.

Perhaps the moral of this story is that you can't teach a dog new tricks. Particularly these old dogs, who, like my old dog, bite back if you don't handle them just right. After all, you can't read Matthew Broersma's report about how more than 100 Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) developers are asking the Redmond-based company to reconsider its plans to end support for the pre-.Net form of Visual Basic without concluding that going from the old VB to the new VB is, for all intents and purposes, a new trick.

How much of the older generation VB is out there in numbers of lines of source code is unknown. But according to the report, 45 percent of all North American developers (including yours truly) continue to use the non-.Net versions of VB. The footnote is that 34 percent have used the .Net version. But that says nothing of how many lines of code either group is responsible for. So putting our fingers on just how much of that legacy code out there can't cross the gap to VB.Net isn't clear. But the "experts" seem to think it's significant.

According to Evans Data analyst Albion Butters, "One of the main issues keeping VB6 and earlier developers from making the migration to VB.Net is the steepness of the learning curve....The difficulty in moving existing VB6 apps to VB.Net is, in some cases, insurmountable."

Broersma's report quotes developer and author Rich Levin as saying "The .Net version of Visual Basic is Visual Basic in name only....Any organization with an investment in Visual Basic code--consultants, ISVs, IT departments, businesses, schools, governments--are forced to freeze development of their existing VB code base, or reinvest virtually all the time, effort, intellectual property, and expense to rewrite their applications from scratch."

Cries from the MVPs haven't gone unnoticed. Paul Vick, Microsoft's technical lead for Visual Basic .Net wrote an empassioned response in his blog, offering details of how the two architectures are so different, that it's technically impossible to keep the old VB going without maintaining an entirely separate (from Visual Studio .Net) development solution. In addition, the company is throwing its weight behind managed code solutions like Visual Studio .Net versus the unmanaged nature of the older VB.

In their petition, the MVPs asked that, in the same fashion that Microsoft continues to support C++ while also evolving C# as a part of the .Net family, that the same should be done for VB and VB.Net. Wrote Vick in his blog, "... the architectures are totally different and, in many ways, incompatible. Heck, we spent four years getting VB .NET integrated into the Visual Studio shell and we were writing it from scratch (and therefore could design a compatible architecture)!" After talking about how any extension of the old VB's life is just inviting a more painful conversion down the line, Vick

Topics: Developer


David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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